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China can play a leading role in protecting Palestinian rights

By Adriel Kasonta | | Updated: 2021-05-27 10:13
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People gesture near the rubble of a damaged building as Palestinians celebrate in the streets following a ceasefire, in Gaza City May 21, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

It is possible China's rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council, which lasts through May, will go down in history as the most significant test of the country's global leadership concerning humanitarian crisis management.

This presidency is taking place amidst the Israeli regime's violence against the Palestinian population, starting with the Israeli police assault of the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem during the holy month of Ramadan.

In the wider context, the behaviour of Israeli officials — recently accused by Human Rights Watch of "committing the crimes of apartheid and persecution" vis-à-vis the Palestinian people — relates to the situation in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem. That was triggered by threats of forced evictions of Palestinian families, as well as the most recent escalation of attacks from and on Gaza accompanied by the rise of racial hatred and violence in Israel.

All of this was condemned by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, in her recent appeal for "de-escalation amid increasing bloodshed, incitement, volatility in Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel."

Although Bachelet warned "there can be no winner, no sustainable peace resulting from the furtherance of the cycle of violence," and called "all sides - and States with influence - to take immediate measures to ensure respect for international law, ease tensions, and work to resolve - rather than fan - the conflict," this does not seem to have made an impression on the US, which took quite an unconventional approach to solve the humanitarian disaster.

US President Joe Biden's strategy to resolve the problem is limited to either blocking emergency meetings on worsening hostilities between Israel and Palestinians held by the UN Security Council, or on numerous occasions opposing a joint statement aimed at reducing tensions.

By going against the Security Council's will, the leadership in Washington is acting as a diplomatic shield for its ally in the Middle East. Biden is not only providing Benjamin Netanyahu's regime with a blank check to continue its crimes against the Palestinian population by pushing the illegitimate mantra of Israel's "right to defend itself", but also adding fuel to the conflict by approving $735 million in weapon sales to Israel, which already receives $3.8 billion in military aid from the US annually.

Despite a rather cynical declaration Washington wants to see "an engagement that would dispel delusions created by the past US administration that Israel would get everything while Palestinians would get nothing," referring to the Donald Trump era's failed peace proposal, Biden seems to be happy with preserving Trump's disastrous policies in the region.

Although a Gaza ceasefire was brokered by Egypt last Friday, violent confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians outside Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa are still taking place.

According to estimates made by the UN humanitarian coordination office for the Occupied Palestinian Territory and verified by the UN human rights office, there were 242 Palestinians killed overall since May 10; 23 girls, 43 boys, 38 women and 138 men.

We can see a stark contrast between the behavior of Washington and Beijing, the latter of which has made it clear on numerous occasions the only solution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a two-state solution.

As Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi rightly noted, "without a just settlement of the Palestinian issue, Palestine and Israel as well as the Middle East will not be able to achieve true peace."

With the current leadership vacuum created by the ambiguous behaviour of the US, China has a unique opportunity to seize the moment and play a constructive role in mediating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by positioning itself as a credible broker.

In order to achieve this goal, Beijing should continue to support the UN, the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in playing more constructive role in the conflict, and most importantly push forward Wang's four-point proposal laid out at the UN Security Council meeting on May 17.

In fact, China's initiative looks like the only solid framework in which Israel could peacefully coexist with a Palestinian state, and potentially the only one that can mitigate any further escalation of conflict in the region.

Adriel Kasonta is a London-based foreign affairs analyst and commentator,
and founder of AK Consultancy.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

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